Converting a Premise into Narrative Structure
Jul 18th, 2019
I spent this Summer working on a feature for Subtext that I know would completely revolutionize the way people write stories.
Everyone knows by now that the Premise, or central dramatic argument, of your story is the most important thing in the world. Without it, the writer sits adrift in a sea of endless rewrites.
Meaning is the cornerstone of the Premise. That's why it's so important.
Without a Premise, or an argument, the story you're writing is pointless.
Some writers start with a Premise. Others get there eventually.
Regardless, there will come a time when you need to nail down the point of your story, and when that time comes, Subtext is here to help.
Transforming Meaning into Storybeats
Every week I upload a brand new narrative structure into Subtext. This week's addition to the catalog was the Jim Carrey Romantic Dramedy Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
I used this film often during my classes in Story Development at CalArts as a means of introducing the idea of a Holistic-minded story. Carrey's character, Joel, is less interested in goals and more interested in self-actualization—and the narrative structures itself accordingly.
Watching it over this past weekend, I figured out the precise thematic elements of the film and entered them into the Dramatica Story Expert application. Exporting the storyform from that program, I then uploaded it into Subtext to be completely blown away by it's the interpretation of the Premise of the film:
I don't think people yet fully understand what this all means. I know I wasn't prepared.
Of course, I forgot that the accuracy of the arguments in the live app exceeded those within my local version. So, I quickly uploaded it again to the better version—only to be more stunned by the results:
The Holistic mind is more concerned with issues, rather than plot. Here we see "low self-esteem" popping up as the critical objective element of the Premise—which makes way more sense if you've seen the film.
And this is the crazy part.
The following is the last Act of the film spun up for me based on the narrative structure of Eternal Sunshine. The bold storytelling is 100% RANDOM—based purely on that initial Premise.
And this is the kind of thing you can expect from Subtext. Figure out that initial Premise, or nail down the Premise of what you've already written, and Subtext will magically offer back a prescient understanding of your narrative structure.
Break these Storybeats down into greater detail, and you find the results even more stunning in the logistical and emotional concerns of that initial Premise:
This collection of Storybeats is my proof of concept.
We can now convert the Premise, or dramatic argument, of a story into specific Storybeats that help guide and inform the writer during their artistic process.
"Hey Siri, build me a story where low self-esteem issues drive people to juggle their judgments of others with their expectations of the worst."
"Oh. And make it bittersweet."
Subtext gets it done.